Clifford Johnson, a theoretical high energy physicist at USC, wants to take topics like string theory, dark matter and quantum mechanisms out of the classroom, and into everyday life.
He illustrated exactly what that could look like in his recently published graphic novel, "The Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe."
"Conversations ramble all over the place. I think the freedom to have a conversation is a great way of showing that science is really interconnected because you tend to go from one topic to another," Johnson said.
The conversations depicted in his book vary from particle physics, astrophysics to cosmology and take place in everyday life.
"In some parts, I talk about the ideas that are from the research in my community. It covers what I consider 'origin questions,' like what everything is made of and where it comes from," Johnson said. "I had some topics in mind that I thought would be fun to connect with, probably because they can grow out of people's everyday concerns."
Inspired by the dialogues of ancient Greek scholars, Johnson first had the idea for a book of conversations, then decided to add visual components.
Johnson's graphic novel isn't only intended to be narrative artwork; it also is intended to encourage science communications.
"I wanted to find a new way of bringing people into discussing contemporary science and having conversations," said Johnson. "Somehow, I figured that having a book about conversations would be a way of bringing people in, and maybe get them interested."
According to Jessica Eise, an author and communications researcher at Purdue's Brian Lamb School of Communication, creative efforts like graphic novels can help connect people to science.
"In science communication, you are trying to take something that's complex and communicate that to a body of people who likely are not an expert in that area. Creativity is really what we will have to look into for the answers," said Eise. "Presented in a dry format, science can be very boring to people. So, we need to be creative and not constrain ourselves."
According to Johnson, he wanted to expand the types of science books produced for the general public as well academics, who often use expert terminology.
"Part of the point of this project is to show there are so many more forms of communicating ideas and an incredibly powerful form is the graphic book format, which is usually assumed to be just for superheroes or biography," Johnson said.
Johnson says his book is written for people of all ages, regardless of whether they were interested in science initially.
"Sciences are part of our culture. Just like if you're looking at a piece of art, you don't have to know everything about art and art history to appreciate a painting. You get what you can and then you move on," Johnson said.